Miami Beach Wartime Training Center
Nazi U-boats brought World War II home to South Florida, sinking ships just off the coastline and landing saboteurs. But the real invasion came as waves of servicemen and women arrived to learn how to fight. The Miami Beach training center for soldiers opened in February 1942 and it was one of the largest centers and officer candidate schools during WWII. Miami Beach city government leased $2,000,000 worth of municipal properties to the war department for a total of $6 a year. At the peak of the training program 93 apartment buildings were occupied by the armed forces and 85 percent of Miami Beach’s hotel rooms –one fourth of Florida’s total hotel space — were leased to the armed services. One fourth of the officers and one fifth of the enlisted men of the entire Army Air forces were trained in Miami Beach. The Miami Beach Municipal Golf Course was leased for $1 a year and used as an Army headquarters and drill field. One of the trainees there: movie idol Clark Gable. Nearly 18,000 local women converted Miami Beach’s Million Dollar Pier into Servicemen’s Pier, where the boys from far away could get a sandwich and a Coke and maybe dance with a local girl. About 2,000 members of the air forces, released from Japanese prison camps, spent two weeks of their 90-day furlough resting and relaxing in paradise. Miami Beach returned to full civilian operation in 1945 after nearly four years as host to the Army air, ground and service forces.